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Save the date: Important dates for the Rays this off-season

Photo by Wayne Masut I The Scrum Sports

An improbably 90-win season could come with some hardware this off-season for a few.

The playoffs are in full swing and there’s plenty of good baseball left to watch. If you’re a Rays fan, however – you have to wait until February for your boys to be back on the diamond. That doesn’t mean the excitement is that far off. With award season still a few weeks away, here is some of the hardware Rays players (and maybe skipper) can take home before the new year.

November 5: BBWAA finalists announced

The Rays will find out who among them will be a finalist for some big time awards. From Rookie of the Year to league MVPs to Manager of the Year, the big league club could find a few of their ‘mates vying for a new piece to put on their mantles.

November 12: Rookies of the Year announced

This likely goes to either DH/P Shohei Ohtani of the Angels or 3B Miguel Andujar of the Yankees. However it’s very possible UTIL Joey Wendle is a finalist with an outside shot at winning the Rays third AL Rookie of the Year award. He would join 3B Evan Longoria (2008) and SP Jeremy Hellickson (2011) if he does.

November 13: Managers of the Year announced

Kevin Cash will be a finalist for AL Manager of the Year. What he did with this young, hungry, injury-plagued roster is nothing short of incredible. After starting 4-13, having every member of your Opening Day rotation injured and/or traded away, and still finishing with 90 wins is remarkable. Not to mention changing the game with “the opener.” It likely goes to Oakland’s Bob Melvin – and it’d be hard to argue that.

November 14: Cy Young Awards announced

Not sure there’s a debate here. Rays LHP Blake Snell seems to be the winner on just about everyone’s board nationally and locally. His dominance over the playoff field and inside his own division should be more than enough to garner just the second Cy Young award in franchise history. Couple that with the lowest ERA (1.89) in the AL and a league-best 21 wins and there’s not much of an argument against him. The only other Cy Young winner in Rays history is LHP David Price (2012).

November 30: Non-tender deadline

This will be a big date to keep circled on your calendar. The Rays have seven players eligible for arbitration this off-season. The non-tender deadline will be the day they allow any of them to walk as free agents if they have no plans on potentially going to arbitration.

3B Matt Duffy, 1B C.J. Cron, C Jesus Sucre, C Adam Moore, and OF Tommy Pham are the position players eligible. LHP Vidal Nuno and RHP Chaz Roe are the pitchers eligible.

December 9-13: Winter Meetings

Arguably the most exciting time of the MLB off-season calendar. Blockbuster trades are the story of the week and the Rays might be in that market. With a crowded infield and the question of how OF Mallex Smith plays into the 2019 plans – GM Erik Neander could be answering quite a few phone calls before the holidays.

With an expected payroll of around $32 million before any arbitration deals, the Rays have some financial room to make this off-season quite interesting. You may not see any legitimate blockbuster deals happen around this club. They were in the AL playoff hunt all the way up to the final week of the season. They did it with mostly rookies and a Cy Young-caliber season by a third-year pitcher. The in-house talent is locked in for many years to come already with rookies up and down the lineup and pitching staff. Rookies who raked this season. Rookies who know how to win and have been champions in AAA.

Could the 2019 Rays be champions in MLB?

Baseball never sleeps. The off-season is upon us. Let’s enjoy the show.

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